It appears as though one person with an axe to grind has been driving around Valley East, collecting evidence to complain to city bylaw about hedges.
Their specific complaint has been in relation to their height, which Zoning By-Law 2010-100Z dictates must not exceed one metre.
The city has received 111 complaints regarding hedges so far this year, city bylaw manager Stefany Mussen told Sudbury.com, adding that a “high volume” has been in Valley East.
She declined to comment on how many of these complaints came from one person, but former Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan said a bylaw officer told him that one person filed most of them.
“The bylaw officers had to come to my house to take photos of my hedges to fill out a report demonstrating that they did, in fact, investigate the complaint and found my hedges compliant,” Kirwan wrote.
“Apparently, some person was told that he/she had to cut down their hedges because they were non-compliant, and so he/she started driving from street to street writing down addresses of every property with hedges, filing individual complaints about the hedges being too high.”
Kirwan said that during his last term on city council, he was in discussion about amending the city’s approach to bylaws so a complainant would need to be directly impacted by the alleged infraction to have their complaint investigated.
“This amendment would prevent someone from travelling to different parts of the city and simply filing complaints to be a nuisance,” he wrote. “This hedge complaint is a complete waste of time, resources and money.”
Mussen told Sudbury.com the city is in the process of finalizing a policy regarding “vexatious and unreasonable complaints, which would be similar to policies adopted by other municipalities.”
With the policy not yet in place, she said bylaw officers follow up on every complaint they receive. In the event they receive a high volume of complaints, they’re triaged to address safety concerns first.
“Otherwise, what we’re doing is providing education to residents about the bylaw and asking them to get into compliance.”
Bylaw officers use an education-first approach to compliance, with penalties typically following.
Meanwhile, people are making fun of the so-called Hedgegate on social media.
“Seems it would be easy to backlog bylaw services with all the easy complaints that could be made across the city,” one commenter wrote.
“This is too funny,” another commenter wrote. “Can you imagine if no one complies and they have to issue hundreds of summons? Good way to clog the court system for no good reason and waste everyone's time/money.”
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.